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The “Munchkin” breaks through, downs Stottlemeyer to claim MD State 8-Ball Championships

Brett Stottlemyer and Steve Johnson

“He’s short,” said Loye Bolyard, co-tour director of On the Hill Productions’ Maryland State Championship events, “and people were always busting on him about it.”

Over the years, Steve Johnson has good-naturedly absorbed an expected array of potential nicknames related to his height; “Shorty,” of course, being the most common. Until one day, he corrected someone by suggesting that they refer to him as the “Munchkin.” It’s stuck, if not before, certainly now, as the “Munchkin” just completed a successful run through a field of 50 entrants at this past weekend’s (March 12-13) MD State 8-Ball Championships. According to Bolyard, while Johnson’s been a regular competitor on the MD State series of events, as well as a cash winner at any number of small, venue-specific tournaments, it’s the first time that the “Munchkin” has recorded a major (recorded) tournament payout and it was a win. The event drew its 50 entrants to Brews & Cues on the Boulevard in Glen Burnie, MD.

It’s rare to the point of being remarkable that a player with almost no known history of success at the tables can break through at a tournament featuring a number of better-known and presumably, better players. Not completely unheard of, but certainly rare enough to gain ‘remarkable’ status. And while the game was 8-ball, known to offer players more kinds of opportunities to frustrate opponent plans, and he wasn’t up against the likes of Jayson Shaw, Shane Van Boening or Fedor Gorst, the “Munchkin” didn’t get a lot of luck from the bracket draws. He had to get by (among others) the likes of Matt Krah, Jimmy Rivera, Scott Haas and eventually, had to double dip Brett Stottlemeyer in the finals to claim his first event title.

“We don’t know what happened,” said Bolyard. “He’d won one of those weekly tournaments the Friday before and he just kept his nerves under control. He was really calm all the way through.”

“He kept his composure together and everything just clicked for him,” he added. “He was able (in the finals) to put Brett in some lockdowns; good ones that stopped runouts. He had him 4-0 in that first set.”

It started well for the “Munchkin.” He opened with a shutout over Tim Metter and then got by Christie Hurdel and Joseph Wright, Jr. before encountering Matt Krah in a winners’ side quarterfinal. They fought the proverbial ‘tooth and nail’ to 5-5 before Johnson picked up ‘6,’ advancing to a winners’ side semifinal against Jimmy Rivera. Like Johnson, Stottlemeyer opened with a shutout (over Bruce Brunnell) before facing his own ‘rogue’s gallery’ of familiar combatants, any one of whom could have derailed his trip to the hot seat; Rick Miller, Steve Fleming and, in a winners’ side quarterfinal, Scott Haas. Going into the winners’ side quarterfinals, there was a potential father/son battle for the hot seat looming on the event horizon. But while Thomas did his part, downing Thomas Zippler 6-3, Stottlemeyer sent his Dad to the loss side in a double hill fight and picked up son Thomas in the other winners’ side semifinal. This shifted the potential father/son battle to the loss side, where they eventually met in the quarterfinals.

Stottlemeyer made short work of son Thomas Haas 6-1, as Johnson was dispatching Rivera to the loss side 6-4. In the first of their three matches, Stottlemeyer dominated, for the second time in a row giving up only a single rack. He sat in the hot seat, one would assume, fairly confident that he’d be chalking up the one win he needed to claim the title.  

On the loss side, the Haas family was at work, looking to match up in the quarterfinals. Dad had followed his loss to Stottlemeyer with victories over Bryan Jones 6-2 and Zippler 6-1 to draw Rivera. Son Thomas picked up Eric Lyons, who was working on a modest four-match, loss-side streak that had recently eliminated Matt Krah 6-4 and co-tour director Rick Scarlato, Jr. 6-1.

Father and son downed their respective opponents, Rivera and Lyons, by the same 6-3 score and the quarterfinal family fight was on. Oddly enough, it was won by the same 6-3 score that had made the match happen. It was Dad Scott who advanced to the semifinals against the “Munchkin.” 

The reportedly “calm” and “composed” Johnson kept the ‘cool’ going in the face of a double hill challenge from the last Haas standing. He weathered that storm, eliminating Haas to put an even more daunting challenge on his ‘dance card;’ the necessary two-step tango to pry Brett Stottlemeyer from his perch in the hot seat.

The “Munchkin” grabbed the first set 6-3, which almost certainly had a way of boosting his confidence, while on the other side of the table, the pressure was suddenly on. Johnson won the second set 6-4 to claim MD State’s 8-Ball Championships and earn his first payout entry into AZBilliards’ database.

On the Hill Productions’ Bolyard and Rick Scarlato, Jr. thanked the ownership and staff at Brews & Cues on the Boulevard, as well as sponsors AlleyKat Cue Sports, AZBilliards.com, Aramith Balls, Bull Carbon, Simonis Cloth, TAP Chesapeake Bay Region, Safe Harbor Retirement Planners, Whyte Carbon Fiber Cue Shafts, OB Cues and MB Cues.

On the Hill Productions will be back at Brews & Cues on the Boulevard for its next three events. Its first, a 10-Ball Scotch Doubles event for teams with a combined FargoRate of 1200 or under, scheduled for the weekend of March 26-27, will be #3 in its Bar Box Bonanza series. April will bring two events, blending into May. The MD State Bar Table 9-Ball Championships (April 9-10) and #4 in the Bar Box Bonanza Series, a FargoRate 8-Ball tournament (April 30-May 1). 

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